CORRECTION: A previous version of this story had incorrect information. Romney has expressed opposition to EPA’s mercury rule in the past.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney opposes a landmark environmental regulation controlling mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants, according to a campaign statement to National Journal Daily Tuesday.
“Governor Romney has made clear that he opposes the Utility MACT, which costs more than $1,500 for every one dollar reduction in mercury pollution,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said in a statement. “President Obama cannot claim to support clean coal while imposing regulations that his EPA admits would prevent another coal plant from ever being built.”
The statement falls short of explicitly mentioning or endorsing a GOP-backed measure, to be voted on Wednesday, which would nullify the rule entirely. But it does come amid increasing pressure facing the campaign from tea-party and other conservative groups to weigh in on the Senate fight.
The statement puts Romney, who was a leader on environmental rules during his tenure as Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007, out of step with his Northeastern Republican colleagues in the Senate. Most if not all of them are expected to vote against the measure, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. Ayotte told National Journal Daily Tuesday she intends to vote against the proposal, sponsored by Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., because she said the rules have been in the works for more than a decade and because of the importance of clean air for public-health reasons.
The campaign’s statement is a reversal from the position Romney held as Massachusetts governor and it offers a more stark condemnation of specific environmental regulations compared to what Romney himself has said on the campaign trail. It also shows that Romney is seeking to further distinguish himself from Obama on energy and environment issues.
As governor, in 2003, Romney stood in front of a power plant and said that its toxic emissions were killing people. His state also joined with others in the Northeast in suing EPA to demand the very rules on mercury that Inhofe is now trying to overturn.
Writing in his jobs plan in September 2011, Romney said that this rule “in conjunction with other regulations that the EPA is seeking to impose, the total number of lost jobs may come to be much higher.” Since then, Romney has criticized EPA more generally for overzealously regulating and crippling the coal industry—and the jobs that go along with it. Another specific EPA rule he has talked about, he cautiously defended the idea that governments have a role in controlling air pollution.
In response to a question during a New Hampshire debate in January regarding EPA’s so-called “Good Neighbor” rule—which controls air pollution that blows across state lines—Romney said: “We have to find ways to keep pollution from one state overwhelming the ability of another state to have clean air.”